Saturday, December 10, 2011

Game, set and match ... to them

It is a long time since I have seen this amount of bilge written about the EU and what the British PM has achieved, probably not since John Major's "game, set and match" at Maastricht. How unfortunate then, that so many of the people who sneered at those of us for opposing that great achievement at the time should now rather sheepishly admit that we were right: it was a disaster. Do we have to wait for another twenty years to hear that admission about what is happening now? I would like a life, thank you.

Right. Into battle. Luckily, I do not have to go through any details as the Boss over at EURef (who has been thoroughly fed up with me grousing and practically ordered me to write this blog just to get me off his back) has done so very effectively. Three cheers for the Boss.

In the meantime I have been having quite surreal arguments with people who have accused me of not knowing my facts (always a favourite one with those who believe any old bilge dealt out by politicians and the media); even more surreal ones with supposed eurosceptics who are over the moon with Cameron being so tough; and absolutely out of this world ones with people who actually think that Cameron's behaviour has put us on the same sort of footing as Switzerland.

Let's deal with the last of those first. Switzerland, as every schoolchild should know but as many an adult who feels that they need to comment on political matters does not, is not even in the EEA, let alone the EU. How does anything Cameron does or says short of getting us out of the European project put us on the same footing? Answers on a postcard, please.

Next: how can I be so nasty about Cameron who has done the right thing for once by vetoing the treaty. Ahem, what treaty? The Boss has written about it here. Has anyone seen this treaty? Of course not, because it does not exist. There is no treaty without an IGC and we have not had one of those. So far as anyone can tell, there is no draft treaty even, as Gisela Stuart says in the Evening Standard, but, in any case you cannot veto a draft treaty.

Mind you, this is not the first time the Boy-King has come up with comments about a European Council that seemed to be at odds with communications from that Council. Then, as now, hacks and politicos refused to find out anything. We shall see what the Council communique will say when it is published but I do not think it will say anything about a treaty being vetoed because the Council is not the body that decides or even discusses treaties. Someone should tell Cameron so he should give his fantasies some sort of a reasonable grounding. Then again, given how easy it is to fool a large number of people, why should he bother?

So, the Boy-King has not vetoed any treaty. What has he done? He has allowed Merkozy and the others to go ahead with far greater speed than they even dared to hope with a complete reconstruction of the eurozone, that aims to create a fiscally integrated bloc at the heart of the EU, which will be able to pass any legislation through QMV that it might want to.

So far from repatriating powers, which can be done only through a new treaty that the Boy-King has rejected (not vetoed, just rejected) he has lost any possibility of vetoing whatever speedy conclusions will come out of the forthcoming negotiations for a new agreement.

The assumption was that a full IGC will not be convened till 2013. Agreement, let alone subsequent implementation would be very difficult and Cameron would have the right to veto whatever treaty is agreed on. Or, he could bring it back and let Parliament throw it out; or he could activate the referendum lock and then veto it as we would most probably win a referendum on a new treaty.

Instead we shall have a hastily cobbled agreement that will incorporate everything Merkozy and Rumpy-Pumpy want and that will be passed early next year if the eurozone survives that long. The notion that a new agreement will be any more effective in imposing fiscal discipline on the likes of Greece, Italy or France than any of the previous ones is laughable. What it will do, as Allister Heath wrote on Thursday, is to create a bloc that will be able to force any legislation they want through. That famous financial transaction tax from which Cameron is supposed to have saved the City? It will go through when the eurozone will want to destroy anything outside itself to save its own stagnating economy.

In fact, having got what they wanted from Cameron, Merkozy will almost certainly try to force through the few remaining bits of legislation that will destroy the City. Let's face it, this government does not care about the City and does not want to upset the colleagues in Brussels. Allister Heath again:
Of course, a revolution was required in the City after the mad bubble. Many of the reforms since 2008 have been good, including getting banks to hold more capital, be more liquid and cut their leverage. Some have even been excellent. The move to introduce resolution schemes and living wills to allow even the biggest banks to fail in a controlled way – more advanced in the UK than elsewhere – will help banish bailouts for ever.

But there have also been lots of job-destroying, stupid and unnecessary policies, punitive taxes and a relentless stirring up of anti-City sentiment. The British government has also tolerated or even embraced a tidal wave of EU rules, nearly of them flawed or disastrous. Hedge funds, private equity, insurers and now accountancy firms have all been hammered; new pan-EU regulators have been created. The coalition’s original aim was to shrink the City; then to shrink it as a share of GDP; now, with manufacturing in recession again, it has suddenly realised that it must find growth and jobs wherever they are created. Fine – but it shouldn’t pretend that it has always been the City’s best friend.
The outcome of the last two days' shindig in Brussels does not alter any of that.

So what could or should Cameron have done? It is actually, very easy. He should have said that the European Council is not the proper body to discuss such matters; the proper body is the IGC - even if it consists of the same people, it is a different body, summoned differently with a different mandate and accountability. He should have insisted on a full IGC and a completely new treaty as the changes that are being introduced require one. That would have taken a longish time, as I said above; would have required a good deal of negotiation and discussion in the various countries, including Britain; would then have required unanimity (chance for a veto); and would have had to go through all the stages of implementation. The colleagues would not have liked it; they did not want it; and they managed to avoid it. They will now have their agreement, which will not be called a new treaty and Britain will be sent a copy but it and whatever legislation comes out of it will still be binding. Will there even have to be Parliamentary legislation as there was with every previous treaty? Certainly the referendum lock will not be activated.

Game, set and match to them, I think.

Just one more thing: the markets will re-open on Monday and they, too, will have a say and will go on having a say, unlike Mr Cameron.

14 comments:

  1. Weren't they discussing a treaty _change_ and planning to use the Lisbon treaty's innovation of a 'Simplified revision procedure' clause (see Article 48, para 6), which doesn't require an IGC? I fear your view of the treaty revision process is pre-Lisbon.

    Cameron did indeed veto the amendments that were on the table, since use of this Article to revise the treaty requires unanimity. Unsurprisingly, the media don't elevate their reports to that level of detail.

    Due to that veto, the new agreement will have to be done outside the EU, so its contents will not be binding on Britain. Though this is likely to matter little, since (as you say) what the same group _also_ working together as a bloc _inside_ the EU and utilising the flexibility of the EU treaty, most likely reinforced by the ECJ, means for Britain's future influence over EU laws such as on financial services regulation and much else besides is another question entirely.

    Absolutely right that none of what has happened affects either the euro's fate or the prospects for any power whatsoever to be repatriated. What it does in my view, however, is increase the likelihood that Britain will be shown increasingly to have even less influence over EU laws than we ever had and hence build support for us to leave. 'Influence' is surely the last pillar propping up our continued participation in the EU disaster.

    As your 'Boss' says; what's there not to like?

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  2. No, you are wrong. Nobody has seen what amendments he has vetoed but, in the circumstances, he should have demanded a full IGC and a new treaty. That would have taken time, involved many discussions, a parliamentary vote and, probably, that referendum, which we could have won, unlike the IN/OUT one. He chose not to do so but to support the eurozone's efforts of further integration for which we shall continue to pay.

    As for showing that we have no influence - that has not worked so far and, given the ease with which the Boy-King has diddled so many people, I do not hold out many hopes for people understanding what is going on.

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  3. Having read synopses of the agreement, this point remains for me the single most obvious flaw of the meeting (questions of ‘process excepted): ‘The notion that a new agreement will be any more effective in imposing fiscal discipline on the likes of Greece, Italy or France than any of the previous ones is laughable.’

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  4. Of course it won't Stephen but it will give the strengthened core the ability to vote through all sorts of measures that will be applied EU-wide. The infamous financial transfer tax has nothing to do with any treaty, whether it exists or not - it will be a directive.

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  5. What Cameron _should_ have demanded is not germane to my point, hence your response on this front does not show I am wrong.

    I was correcting you on what actually happened, which you seemed to think could not happen without an IGC that first comes up with a treaty. On that specific point, the analysis of both you and your 'Boss' appears to be wrong.

    There is indeed "no treaty without an IGC", but post-Lisbon there doesn't have to be a treaty to change the treaty. It's self-amending. Thanks to the Lisbon Article 48. I expect you'll remember complaining about that at the time.

    Hence, when you said that Cameron should have said "the European Council is not the proper body to discuss such matters", you were wrong. That's why he could, and did, 'veto' the treaty amendments proposed.

    Looking at your alternative, you seem to be suggesting he should have insisted on an IGC regardless of being able to veto now and even actually _agreed_ to a power transfer in order that Parliament, or a referendum, will reject it.

    What's the point of dragging it out? From his point of view, agreeing to something that will be later rejected back home one way or another is nonsense politics because he would discredit himself for agreeing it. From our point of view, we'd be right back where we started and no nearer being out of the EU. What a waste of time!

    It's also wrong to suggest that he supported the eurozone's efforts to further integrate. While they will undoubtedly do that anyway, his actions mean they will have to do it outside the EU's structure. Not much support, that!

    There is indeed much more work to be done to show we have no meaningful influence over EU law-making. These latest developments can only help towards this. The media have clearly been a lax on the detail, but that's only to be expected. Broadly they have explained correctly and it appear that you have misunderstood changes brought about by the Lisbon Treaty.

    From my point of view, what Cameron has done is sensible, straightforward and will only help those who want to get Britain out. So you won't find me complaining about it.

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  6. I can't help thinking that the EU is not going to let silly things like "laws" get in the way of what they want.

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  7. Dear Helen,
    Once again, I think you are too negative about this development.
    It is my impression that it was entirely intentional on the part of Merkozy et al.
    to upset Cameron. However, in the long run I think that is a miscalculation.
    Cameron was backed into a corner and as a result they have driven him into the hands
    of the more sceptical half of the party. As things in the EU deteriorate further,
    of which I am certain, they will come to regret that they have alienated Cameron
    instead of giving him some carrots to go home with. As it is, this is another small
    step along the way to a break with the EU. If only he could now find the strength
    to lower taxes. This would drive home the advantage over a sclerotic EU. A significant reduction in corporation tax in particular, would put pressure on Ireland to hold a referendum.

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  8. Helen,

    To take the path you suggest would be to deliberately delay the EZ's attempts to 'save to euro' (utterly misguided and irrelevant though they may be). If we want to build public support for exiting the EU by showing the true character of the institution then we are better off appearing to be straightforward in defending our interests without damaging the EZ's (so we can be scapegoated by our oldest enemies) than we are by trying to be cleverer than the eurocrats within a forum where we have zero support (and consequently being much more vulnerable to the blame for all the fallout from the death of the euro). Even Cameron and his advisers cannot ignore the poll boost he has received from his 'effective veto'. Nor can they ignore the 'europlastics' as you and rest of the Judean People's Front know them. The greater the enthusiasm for Cameron now, the greater the pressure on him to continue in the same vein and the greater the electoral rewards for doing so. If Cameron believes in the EU more than he believes in power (which I for one doubt) and resiles and fudges and betrays and allows UKREP to do its work then the fury and rage that will result will be all the greater for the misplaced euphoria now. To a great extent the media are doing your work for you. You should thank them for only using primary colours.

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  9. Sadly, this is not the beginning of the end as far as Britain's membership of the EU is concerned. Au contraire, to quote somebody above. The fact that Cameron has found it so easy to sell the notion that he has achieved something good in Britain's interests when he has achieved precisely nothing apart from avoiding a full Parliamentary debate and a possible referendum on a new treaty, makes it very clear that fooling people on the subject remains as easy as it was in 1975 and 1992.

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  10. tired and emotionalDecember 12, 2011 at 5:00 PM

    This is yet another stage along the way out, that is all. A leader who we all agree is rather unprincipled and who supposedly labours under the delusion that no-one cares about the EU will now have a sneaking suspicion that au contraire people do - and that he might win some votes that way. Whatever happens, expectations have been raised. Either they will be fulfilled (in which case, good), or they will be disappointed (in which case the desire to leave will get stronger and the liklihood of winning a referendum will increase). Why is this bad?

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  11. Why would he bother if he can bamboozle people this easily. I cannot understand the perennial optimism of eurosceptics that always ends in disappointment but reappears after each one.

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  12. tired and emotionalDecember 13, 2011 at 9:37 AM

    You may be right Helen but I can't help feeling that no one gets crosser that those who have been taken for fools. This is especially true when they have large egos (MPs and newspaper editors) and/or dare to hope occasionally as living in a state of despair all the time is rather corrosive to the soul (most eurosceptics).

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  13. tired and emotionalDecember 13, 2011 at 9:43 AM

    We can also be optimistic about 'events'. When the euro fails/splits we are into uncharted territory. In some ways I think it is more likely that the EU will effectively disintergrate around us than it is that Britain will actualy 'leave'. I'll take what I can get, frankly.

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  14. I completely agree with you t&e. The EU will disintegrate and we shall still be there shouting that we can reform it and it is really going our way. No, Britain will not leave. There will be a hell of a mess afterwards for which we are not prepared but, just possibly, we can emerge with something worth having.

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